2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Mt. Lafayette, NH PDCH (Pretty Darn Cold Hike)


Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 7.7 miles

This was my first winter hiking trip, and probably the most grueling hike I've ever done. Guess it pays to stay in shape during the winter, and snowboarding just doesn't use the same muscles as hiking!

We arrived at the trailhead to a "brisk" -3 degree start. Conditions were favorable, as we had blue skies and minimal wind. This was my first winter hike, and unfortunately, I was ill prepared. My normal backpacking gear did not cut it! I like to drink lots of water when I hike, so my spirits were damped when 20 minutes in, my camelback tube froze! Ugh. No worries - had another supply in my pack I brought for cooking.  And I always had my Jetboil in case I needed to melt snow.

The first third of the trail was pretty uneventful, since we had a broken trail in the snow pack. Lafayette is the second tallest mountain in NH, so I'm not sure why I thought this would be a good introduction to winter hiking.  My only excuse was that I had climbed Lafayette before, and it had rained, so I didn't have a view beyond 30 feet., so here was take 2.

Halfway to the hut, Newman helped me put on the crampons he let me borrow, which immediately called a ceasefire between the snow & my Merrils. The going was slow, but we finally reached the Greenleaf AMC hut (closed).

We planned a lunch here before trying for the summit. I whipped out my trusty jetboil to satisfy my morning daydreaming of my hot veggie lasagne Mountain House meal. After fumbling with my mittens & liners, I finally got it set up. I could only have my hands out for so long before they began to ache with the cold. I set up the Jetboil, and, "click, click" went the igniter, but no spark. I listened for the gas flowing, and I didn't hear that either! All my hopes for a hot meal were dashed, and I wondered what had happened.
Anyhow, I put the stove away and chowed on a frozen cliff bar. Luckily, one of my buddies brought a thermos with some hot tea. (brilliant idea!)

Next was the order of getting geared up for the summit. Just beyond the last remaining treeline was about 700 feet of verticle gain completely exposed to the now picking up wind. It was a three man operation to switch my fleece for my down jacket, but I was glad I did. I slipped on my goggles, and we trodded off.

Now, I blame dehydration & the worsening elements, but I was stopping every 10-20 feet during the ascent to catch my breath & gain enough inner strength to carry on. Seeing no one on their way down, I stashed my pack near one of the cairns to ease my load and trudged up. The summit was so close!

Did I mention, I resorted to eating snow to satisfy my thirst?  Yummy!

The four of us, Jay, Trent, Newman & I, reached the summit after about an hour and a half hike up the snowy peak. A quick check of my thermometer registered a hearty -10, but the windchill, we estimated at -40 or so. (At least it wasn't Mt. Washington...) My poor thermometer had no where left to push the mercury down to! 

We only spent a few minutes at the top enjoying the views, since we could see the sun beginning to make its descent already. Thank God for goggles, since Trent's eyelashes started to freeze together and his black balaclava had turned white with frost.

We headed back down, and I picked up my pack.

After reaching the hut, we travelled down the Old Bridle Trail in twos, stopping only to put our headlamps on as the sun went down. Back at the truck, we were greeted by 4 frosty (read frozen) beers that Newman thankfully brought! All in all - a great trek, and I'm actually thinking about winter hiking again...someday.

Post a comment


Your rating:
Your Name:


View all Gear
Find a retailer
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions